One of the difficult tasks was to schedule a meeting room in a scheduling application, using information contained in several email messages. This was difficult because the problem statement was implicit and involved multiple steps and multiple constraints. It would have been much easier to solve the explicitly stated problem of booking room A for Wednesday at 3pm, but having to determine the ultimate need based on piecing together many pieces of info from across separate applications made this a difficult job for many users.

Here is the scary stat:

    The numbers for the 4 skill levels don’t sum to 100% because a large proportion of the respondents never attempted the tasks, being unable to use computers. In total, across the OECD countries, 26% of adults were unable to use a computer.

The number of people I meet that cannot write a simple email with a direct request for assistance is astounding.


This does not surprise me much, unfortunately. What does surprise me in my day-to-day life is the incompetence of youth who have grown up with nearly unfettered access to high speed internet and a variety of devices. I teach suburban high schoolers from upper-middle class families, and my students are astoundingly tech illiterate. They do not understand, conceptually, the difference between cloud storage and local storage. They are unable to download a file and then locate it later because they have absolutely no grasp of files or folders or where/how to access/sort information on the machine. Hell, they don't even know how to navigate menus to change display settings, sort information differently, or save a Google Doc as PDF. These kids are freshmen and juniors in high school-- they are 14-16 years old, and if I let them, they would spend the entire school day staring at their phones, laptops, and iPads.


I had assumed, previously, that being raised on tech would result in a high baseline literacy with the software, but I was wrong. They use their devices all day, but it seems like they use them for such specific, shallow, narrow tasks that they don't pick up any skills beyond how to navigate Instagram and pick up the latest online Jugendsprache. I spend a depressing amount of instructional time either walking them through basic steps to upload an assignment or doing it for them.

posted by francopoli: 773 days ago